John Milton's Paradise Lost: A Reading Guide

John Milton's Paradise Lost: A Reading Guide

John Milton's Paradise Lost: A Reading Guide

John Milton's Paradise Lost: A Reading Guide

Synopsis

Milton's major epic poem, 'Paradise Lost' is an important text for all students of English literature. This new guide leads readers with detailed commentary on core sections and a range of interpretations and contexts. The poem's rich classical, theological, and political context is clearly explained, allowing readers to understand the major concerns within and beyond the content of the text. This volume is suitable for readers coming to the text for the first time or teaching the text at university level.

The book includes contextualized and annotated sections of the poem organized into sections: Hell, Heaven, Paradise, The Narrator. Reisner explores in detail the major approaches to Milton and provides a guided analysis of style and form. The volume includes innovative suggestions for teaching and advice and guidance for further reading.

Excerpt

Paradise Lost rewards a lifetime of reading and re-reading, but it is also a daunting poem which initially can disorient and alienate first-time readers. Among long narrative poems, Paradise Lost is certainly one of the longest and most intimidating in the English canon. Many students are daunted not only by the sheer length of the epic, but also by the perceived ‘heaviness’ of the theological and biblical subject matter, the sprawling baroque artificiality of the poetry, Milton’s ostentatious pedantry and classicism, and his Latinate syntax and difficult idiom. As a consequence, it is a common schoolroom practice to ease students into the epic by breaking it up into discrete units, usually focusing first on the most pleasing aspects of the poem for modern readers – namely Satan’s vividly realised character in the early books and the captivating story of Adam and Eve’s fall from God in the Garden of Eden in Books IX and X. As a result, many important sequences in the poem deemed by popular consensus (and even some critical opinion) too difficult or of inferior poetic quality are often neglected or even ignored, with the obvious result of sabotaging the proper coherence of Milton’s overall didactic argument in the poem. The following Reading Guide to Paradise Lost approaches the perceived problem of the poem’s length by offering first-time readers and students a detailed analytical overview, or map, of the poem as a whole, together with a corresponding map for negotiating important landmarks in the vast body of academic criticism on the poem. The two sets of maps are inseparable; the various critical debates which surround different aspects of the poem raise a set of very useful, and usually insoluble, questions which in turn crystallise, through the heated debates they inspire, the poem’s unique claims on our imagination. The analyses and discussions provided in this Guide are representative rather than exhaustive and aim to demonstrate the wide scope of interpretation Paradise Lost invites. To grasp Milton’s . . .

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